ORONO – Last year, the Maine soccer squad debuted a young core of players that perhaps was not aware of what was ahead of it. With a parity-filled conference, the Black Bears were thrust right into the middle of the pact, and ended up punching a playoff ticket. With parity expected once more in America East, the school now knows how its opponents view them.
The Black Bears were picked to finish sixth in the 2017 America East preseason poll, tied with UMass Lowell with 26 points overall. The Hartford Hawks were tabbed first in the conference with 58 overall points, though were second in terms of first place votes. Defending conference champion Albany took those honors with five, good for a second place overall selection.
New Hampshire, the team that beat Maine in the America East playoffs, was picked to finish third. The entire poll can be found here.
Overall, this Maine team now has more seasoning, and a fifth place finish could be underestimating the squad. Head coach Scott Atherley thinks this year’s team will be ready to look compete for a home playoff spot this time around, as they take more experience into 2017.
“I don’t think they knew what to expect,” Atherley said. “Now the idea is that we have such a strong core of players that understand what the expectations are. What the competition looks like. The difference between non-conference and conference scheduling. And I think their ambition is they got a taste of it last year, the idea is now we want to make that next step.”